13 September 2023
Transformative Tools for Remote Excellence
Interview with Leena Toivanen from Centria University of Applied Sciences
Written by Anna Zaccaro
In an era where remote work has become a defining aspect of our professional lives, a dedicated group of experts is delving into the intricacies of this transformative shift. Leena Toivanen from Centria University of Applied Sciences tells us what they expect to accomplish thanks to EU funding and the Interreg Baltic Sea Region support.
What inspired you to lead this project?
My involvement traces back to a prior venture – the seed money project – which focused on some unique vantage points of remote work. Unlike the prevailing narrative of merely adapting to remote work, our earlier project delved into aspects such as communication, innovation, and the essentials of this evolving work mode. However, as time passed, we recognized the unyielding relevance of remote work, even as the pandemic situation stabilized. This relevance fueled our determination to explore and connect the true potential of remote work and cross-border collaboration.
What is the challenge you aim to tackle through this project?
The heart our project lies in the transformative power of this new way of working. The conventional paradigms have shifted, and the allure of going back to old norms is high. We had to switch to distance work because of necessity, but now we can work on how to better utilize what we have learned, treat the past experiences we had during the pandemics as an opportunity. So that companies can be actually competitive and pro-active in using remote opportunities.
Why do you need a transnational project to address your challenge?
An important aspect of our project’s worth definitely emerges from its transnational nature. It’s not just about addressing the challenges faced by one region; it’s about shared learning and collective growth. While some may struggle, others might excel. For example, I was having a conversation with one of the project partners concerning digital recruitment methods, and they were surprised to know that here in Finland we also have online procedures instead of only conducting in presence interviews. Moreover, the consortium is a melting pot of organisations, from business development entities to universities, and it is interesting to see how each is contributing with their unique perspective. Only a transnational project can result in an international hub-model produced in the project.
Consortium includes partners in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. All partners have an active role in all the work packages and groups of activities and they have a broad network that is used to reach the target groups and develop solutions that have a practical need in the area. Discover more about the partners on the Distance LAB project page.
How will your project change/improve the situation in the region? What’s the solution that you are working on?
We have various solutions actually, which unfold through a series of pilots. Digital skills, ecological readiness, and holistic well-being are the focus of some of them. The fusion of technology and human-centric approaches come to the forefront. For instance, a well-being app designed to monitor and enhance employee well-being in the remote work landscape is an innovative stride. We have set up 30 questions that will be divided into two daily questions, so that employees don’t have to answer a long questionnaire every day but at the same time the frequency of the questions will help the employer grab the early signs of any discomfort. It’s somehow the essence of our philosophy: to understand, adapt, and improve – not just for businesses but for individuals who shape these organisations.
Who will benefit from your project most?
At its core, this project is designed to empower SMEs, providing tools and insights that ripple across industries. However, its reach can be extended beyond, as to encompass various organisations engaged in remote work such as public entities and educational institutions. There is great potential for collective growth and learning.
As you envision the project, what do you anticipate as the most challenging aspect? On the other hand, what aspect excites you the most?
When an organisation embarks on a transformative journey, particularly when the impetus for change stems externally there’s often a tendency to opt for the minimal effort, driven by the need to allocate the smallest amount of time and effort just to comply with the minimun required. Thus, the real challenge lies in recognizing that dedicating time and effort to comprehensively understand the subject at hand, along with its potential opportunities, can yield substantial future benefits. It’s about sourcing the necessary resources to actively participate in the project and fostering an open-minded perspective. This, I believe, constitutes the primary challenge. However, for me this is also the exciting part. By investing the necessary time and comprehending the prospect, the door opens to effecting impactful change within the business landscape.
For those who are new to Interreg and just beginning their journey, based on your experiences, how would you inspire them to apply? What makes it truly worthwhile?
What I find most rewarding about these projects is how tangible they are. It’s a collaborative process where I engage directly with the end-users of the solution. But what truly makes the difference is the prospect that the solutions we devise won’t fade away once the project concludes. It’s this sense of lasting impact that truly resonates with us.
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